The Tarka Trail is a series of footpaths and cyclepaths (rail trails) around north Devon, England that follow the route taken by the fictional Tarka the Otter in the book of that name. It covers a total of 180 miles (290 km) in a figure-of-eight route, centred on Barnstaple.

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The 31-mile (50 km) section between Braunton and Meeth is car-free, level and mostly tarmacked, and is shared by pedestrians and cyclists, with horseriding also permitted on part of it. There is a guidebook available for this section. 


Tarka Trail Cycle Hire On either the Southern route to Bideford or the Northern route to Braunton, we think you will experience some of the best of the Tarka Trail and have the chance to explore the beautiful estuary of the rivers Taw and Torridge.

En route to either Bideford or Braunton for refreshment, you can take in the countryside Devon is so famed for and enjoy a truly great day out! You can enjoy the peace and quiet of this beautiful corner of Devon, and with the level, traffic-free cycling, it’s perfect for families and less experienced cyclists. The Tarka trail is a bird watchers paradise, with stunning river estuary scenes, and don’t forget to keep an eye out for evidence of the trails former use as a railway line!


Photo: Grant Sherman 24th January 2022


Long Distance Walkers Association The Trail traces the journeys of Tarka the Otter, taking in locations featured in the book. In effect, the Trail comprises two routes based on Barnstaple. The northern section takes an easterly line to and over Exmoor to the sea, then follows the coastline through Braunton to the start. The southern section is through Bideford and Great Torrington to Okehampton and Sticklepath, returning north and terminating at Eggesford where advantage can be taken of a rail link back to Barnstaple. Both include sections in river valleys, including the Torridge, Taw, Bray and above the East Lyn. The Tarka Trail Southern Section 108km (67miles) and marked on OS mapping stretchs south from Barnstaple following parts of the River Torridge, visiting Great Torrington, Dolton then looping further south to Hatherleigh, Okehampton and Sticklepath before turning north to the finish at Eggesford Station.

The Taw-Teign Link (6 miles and on OS mapping) links the Tarka Trail at Sticklepath and Two Moors Way at Chagford, on the northern fringe of Dartmoor. A second link, by way of the Little Dart Ridge & Valley Walk (11 miles and included on OS mapping) is available in connecting Eggesford with Witheridge which is also on the Two Moors Way.

There are 21 yellow-topped audio posts spread out along this section of the Trail. Each post has a different information plaque and QR code. Users scan the code with a smartphone and each sound recording corresponds to a particular place on the Tarka Trail where you can learn about the wildlife, history, and heritage of the Trail.

The remainder of the route covers a wide variety of landscapes, including wooded river valleys, moorland, coastal cliffs and sandy beaches. Walking varies between easy through to moderate and strenuous, depending on the location, but, in general, it is comprehensively waymarked.

The trails are a popular tourist destination and bicycle hire businesses are available for those who wish to cycle along suitable sections of the trail. A section of the Trail is part of National Cycle Network route number 27 and forms part of the route known as the Devon Coast to Coast Cycle Route a route of 99 miles (159 km) from Ilfracombe to Plymouth largely using former railway lines.


Sustrans The Tarka Trail is the perfect day ride. It’s one of the country's longest continuous traffic-free walking and cycling paths and is ideal for families or less experienced cyclists. The Tarka Trail makes use of disused railway tracks to take you into the beautiful North Devon countryside. 


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